COLLEGE STATION, Texas — As the first quarter came to a close, Missouri quarterback James Franklin found a wide-open receiver. No. 81 made the catch then scampered all the way to the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown reception. The Tigers took a 14-7 lead over Texas A&M.
Many Missouri fans might have needed a roster to find out Missouri sophomore tight end Eric Waters made the touchdown.
The backup to senior Michael Egnew had just one catch, a 4-yard gain against Western Illinois, entering Saturday’s game at Texas A&M. With Egnew coming off an All-American season, Waters didn’t figure to see much time. He is listed as Egnew’s “understudy” in the Missouri media guide. In addition, Waters suffered a hamstring injury early this season that kept him out of the first two games. With Egnew catching few passes earlier in the year, it didn’t seem like there would be much room for his backup.
However, in Missouri's 38-31 overtime victory over No. 16 Texas A&M on Saturday, Waters made a big difference for the Tigers.
Franklin threw a strike to Waters, who spun to avoid a defender. Waters then sprinted through a gap in the defense to make it all the way to the end zone. It was just his second career catch and his first career touchdown.
“It was exciting,” Waters said. “Only thing I can really tell you is we ran the whole play to perfection. Wes Kemp did his job, which allowed me to get free. The defender bit on the drag route. We’ve been practicing it all week, and we just made a play. Coach (Andy) Hill talked about attacking their blitz and when we do, we’re going 50 yards. That’s exactly what happened.”
Waters’ big play highlighted a busy first half that saw the teams trade touchdowns in a back-and-forth fashion. The touchdown catch, even though it came in the first quarter, was one of the most exciting plays of the game.
The thing is, if it weren’t for a minor equipment issue, Waters might not have even been on the field for the play.
Egnew’s helmet became unbuckled, and the senior instructed the sophomore to take over for the next couple of plays. If not for the troublesome helmet, it would have been Egnew running that route instead of Waters.
But Egnew had nothing but praise for Waters after the game.
“He’s doing good,” Egnew said. “Every day in practice he’s getting a little bit better, a little bit better. He’s definitely starting to run his routes well. I’m just proud for him, I’m glad for him that he scored a touchdown.”
Waters is a native of Mansfield, Texas, about a three-hour drive from College Station. He played against Tigers teammate Kenji Jackson in high school in Mansfield.
Jackson said it was huge for Waters to score a touchdown in his home state.
Waters gave the credit for his big play to the Missouri coaching staff.
“We’re taught to make big plays," Waters said. "And that’s what we do.”